July 11, 2005

Changes to Ontario nutrient management rules provide more flexibility, cover more farms

Proposed changes to animal waste management rules under Ontario's nutrient management regulation would increase the number of Ontario farms practising nutrient management, while providing more flexibility for the development of farmers' nutrient management plans and strategies. The amendments to regulation 267/03 under the Nutrient Management Act, 2002 would also ensure continued protection for streams and wells through the development of risk-based standards for the construction and placement of manure storage facilities.

In addition, the government intends to help existing large livestock farms comply with waste management rules by increasing available assistance and extending the application deadline for assistance for certain costs associated with becoming compliant. All existing large livestock operations were due to submit a nutrient management strategy by July 1, 2005 and are required to be in full compliance by December 31, 2005.

Key changes being proposed include:

* increasing the number of farms subject to the regulation by modifying the definition of new farms and expanding livestock farms to include all new and expanding livestock farms requiring new building for housing livestock or for manure storage;

* setting priority standards for the protection of streams and wells;

* ensuring standards are science-based, such as requiring all farms within 100 metres of municipal wells to follow legislated land application standards;

* streamlining the process for nutrient management plans and strategies for livestock farms;

* simplifying regulations for farmers by allowing more flexibility in the design of their nutrient management strategy and plan; and

* revising priorities for construction and siting of manure storage facilities.

The enhanced assistance will make up to $60,000 in provincial funding available for each eligible farm unit, increased from $45,000. This will bring the percentage of available government cost-sharing to a maximum of 90%, taking into account federal funding under the Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program. Maximum amounts for many eligible items will also be increased.

Existing large livestock farms subject the regulation are eligible for funding. The deadline for applications will be extended to September 1, 2005. Full compliance is still required by December 31, 2005.

Over the next two years, a short list of nutrient management standards will be developed which could, over time, apply to all farms in Ontario beginning in 2008. A short list of science-based, minimum nutrient management standards will be developed in consultation with stakeholders and the provincial Nutrient Management Advisory Committee. The process will seek to ensure that the standards are not costly to implement, would lower producers' liability, and would eventually apply to all farms in Ontario Approaches to phase-in and financial assistance would also be developed for possible implementation in 2008.

To ensure that the draft standards protect the environment and meet the needs of farmers, the government will invest up to $1 million in each of the next three years for a competitive research program, co-ordinated by the University of Guelph, to ensure that draft standards are science-based and appropriate for Ontario agriculture.

A comprehensive table outlining the proposed regulatory changes and the enhanced financial assistance for existing large livestock farms may be viewed on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Web site, www.omaf.gov.on.ca. The proposed changes have been posted for public comment on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry at www.ene.gov.on.ca, registry reference No RC05E0001; comments are due by July 24, 2005.

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